California legislation that would have increased the number of workers eligible for overtime pay died in the final hours of the state’s 2017 legislative session Saturday, ending a push to revive Obama-era rules that the Trump administration has moved to undo.
The bill, AB 1565, mirrored a now-defunct President Barack Obama-era regulations that would have applied overtime requirements to any employees—hourly, executive, administrative or professional—who earn $47,476 or less annually. The current overtime cap is $23,660. The U.S. Department of Labor proposal would have made nearly 4.2 million workers eligible for overtime wages. But a federal judge last year blocked the rule from taking effect, and the Trump administration in June told a federal appeals court that regulators were moving to revise the policy.
Labor advocates backed the bill, which had been promoted as a piece of California’s legislative resistance to Trump administration policies. The legislation never came up for a vote in the Senate amid speculation that it would be vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
“In every legislative session there are disappointments. This was certainly one for us,” said Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation. “At the end of the day there was perhaps a little trepidation given that we already have a minimum wage tied to the overtime threshold” in California.
California’s minimum wage will rise in steps from $10.50 an hour to $15 an hour over the next six years, meaning that the state would have hit the now-enjoined federal overtime cap by 2020. “Whether or not we revisit this next year, we don’t know that,” Smith said.
Another labor-backed bill that spotlights worker-pay proved more successful.
Lawmakers sent Brown AB 1209, which will require companies with 500 or more workers to make public the pay disparities among its male and female exempt employees and board members.
“It’s inexcusable that we still have to fight to make sure women in this country get paid fairly,” the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, said in a prepared statement. “We can help halt this problem by looking at the hard data. The public should know which companies are paying women less than men for the same job.”
A class action filed by Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein in San Francisco Superior Court last week accuses Google Inc. of paying women less than men in comparable positions. The U.S Labor Department also is looking at the company’s pay practices.
The Trump administration last month rolled back an Obama-era regulation that would have required companies to report aggregate pay data by sex, race and ethnicity to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That information would have been kept confidential. AB 1209 requires the pay-disparity information to be posted on the California secretary of state’s website.
“This is an attempt to change corporate behavior through public shaming,” said Benjamin Ebbink, of counsel at Fisher & Phillips in Sacramento.
Ebbink called the public data “information that’s taken completely out of context.” Pay differences by gender can be perfectly legal based on an employee’s experience, education or other factors, he said.
Ebbink said companies are concerned that the public postings are “doing work” for plaintiffs lawyers. “You still have to prove it, but the corporate community is worried, justifiably so I think, that they’re going to be hit with litigation.”
AB 1209 would require large employers to start collecting the required information by July 2019 and file a statement of information with the secretary of state’s office by July 2020 and every two years after that.
The California Chamber of Commerce, TechNet and other business groups lobbied against the bill, saying it would not provide any useful or reliable data.